After Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky compared the president of the United States to Hitler and Stalin, you’d think that maybe someone in the church would tell the good bishop to ix-nay on the itler-hay already. No, proposing that your church follow the same laws as the rest of the country is not an insult on the order of genocide; if you think so, the problem lies more with you than with the United States, where the issue of “do hospitals founded by specific religious groups still have to follow employment laws” has been fairly settled for a good long time now.
No such luck. There will be no reprimand from Jenky’s superiors. On the contrary, his archbishop understands the dear bishop’s consternation at having to follow laws and having to watch as non-Catholic employees are allowed to be dirty, dirty sluts:
Chicago Francis Cardinal George declined to comment on the comparison but echoed some of the frustration Jenky expressed.
“This is the first time in the history of our country where our very own government has told our Catholic institutions ‘If you’re going to operate in public, you can’t operate in a Catholic way, you have to give up your Catholic identity,’” George told CBS 2’s Mike Parker on Thursday.
This isn’t the first time a church, or specifically My Former Church, has steadfastly asserted that following American law is a terrible insult to it. One of the more recent instances had Boston’s archbishop hightailing it out of the country, I seem to recall, after a flap as to what laws Catholic priests really have to follow. (After all, there’s American Law, and then there’s Cardinal Law.)
What I find remarkable is that the administration caved on this one pretty much as soon as it became an issue. You say you don’t want to have to cover birth control for employees because sexytime spreads anti-Jesus cooties? Fine, whatever, you don’t have to pay for it. The insurance companies will pick it up gratis, your hands won’t be soiled by your Methodist secretary or Presbyterian nurse getting Satan Pills. But the capitulation didn’t even slow the church down. They immediately switched to being offended that any employer would have to pay for birth control if they didn’t approve of their employees having sex (Catholic Taco Bell owners, one fellow sniveled, are still subject to the law!), and were still offended that well, even if they didn’t have to pay for it, they’d still be soiled by allowing their employees to have enough religious freedom to decide for their damn selves whether or not to use the Satan Pills. The insurance companies are providing coverage for free, but now the Catholic leadership complains that their religious freedom is being curtailed by not allowing them to nix employee coverage.
Oh, and not allowing them to do that is like Hitler. Also like Hitler: forcing the church to abide by the same anti-discrimination laws as everyone else if they want to collect federal money for things like adoption programs, or education programs or the like. Mind you, the church can still do that discrimination. The part that’s like Hitler is if the government denies them free money to do it.
To respond more directly to Cardinal George’s concerns, no, this is not the first time our government has told Catholic institutions that if they’re going to operate in public, they have to follow federal laws. If the “Catholic way” was, say, to deny health care to black Americans, the government wouldn’t put up with that. If the “Catholic way” was to say that you can dump medical waste wherever the hell you want because Jesus hates environmental regulations, it wouldn’t fly. A religious institution engaging in public business must abide by public laws. This is not new. This is not controversial. This is not like Hitler, or like Stalin, or even like a mean anti-Jesus chipmunk that looks at you funny.
The nation as a whole has decided, for very good medical reasons, that women who need contraceptive coverage should get it, and that employers shouldn’t be able to deny them it. It is up to each individual to make their own health care decisions, and it is not up to employers, even religious employers, to tell them that they must not take care of their health in certain ways because the employer believes that Jesus, Buddha, or the God of Insufficient Indoor Lighting would not like it.
Government should not be apologizing to the church. The church should be apologizing to the government. The Catholic Church in particular has an egregiously bad record when it comes to treating women as equals (a record that is, of course, ongoing), and the supposition that Catholic religious freedom is being infringed upon by not allowing the church to impose their religious beliefs upon the health lives of their non-Catholic employees is, frankly, deeply offensive. If there is any religious freedom being imposed upon here, it is the religious freedom of all employees, everywhere, who are being told by the Catholic Church and a host of conservative hangers-on that they must give up their own religious viewpoints in favor of those of their employer.
So yes, Bishop Jenky ought to apologize for his “Hitler” comparisons. The archbishop ought to apologize too. But more to the point, they should stop trying to stifle the religious beliefs of others in this concerted demand that America codify their own personal religious views as the law of the land. If you are looking for examples of institutions unwilling to tolerate other people’s religious freedoms, these bishops need not look any farther than their own desks.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2004:
It’ll be a sweet moment amidsts the vulgarities of the modern political process. Two men, leaders of the “free world”, will head into a private room, in front of the 9/11 commission on April 29, together, forever, arms around each other.
They’ll share a secret glance or two, a furtive smile, perhaps play footsie.
Cheney will be strong and assertive. Bush a delicate flower, to be protected at all costs. He may be the president, but he still has tender feelings. He may be perfect, but the pressures of a press conference still weigh heavy on his soul.
Bush’s wife close confidant Condi Rice will likely be nearby, sending her undying love and good vibes the president’s direction. He may be strong in the face of international terrorist cartels, but crumbles under the gaze of a press gaggle or investigative commission.
But he’s a lucky man, to have Cheney and his wife national security adviser to give him strength in his times of need.
It’s difficult to be incompetent and alone.